These Few Sheep

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In the midst of raising little ones, a mother may find herself at odds with the future. Often, dreams and gifts are shelved in preference of little people with constant needs.

Conflict ensues between the privileged nature of motherhood and the long pause in what was a productive, somewhat predictable life.

How does a mother measure success?

Some say life is made up of defining moments. A typical Sunday revealed itself as one of those moments for me. While the speaker expounded on the life of David, I did not expect to be singled out by the Lord. No one around me suspected the arresting that took place that Sunday morning – of my mind, will and emotions – held captive by a thought which transformed into a desire to take the Lord at His word – at home.

Mothers of young children can feel overlooked in the church setting. From the pulpit we hear of mission trips, service opportunities, small groups, worship bands and all sorts of public endeavors. But with a van full of car seats and nap times looming – I was in no place to serve in public. I knew it – but needed affirmation from above.

The speaker described in vivid detail the life of David. Not David the king, but David the shepherd. As the sermon unfolded – time stood still for me. I felt all alone – in a good way – personalizing the story.

David’s brothers mocked him for having such a small job – tending to his ‘few sheep’. They were fighting the big battles, had the upfront positions and represented little brother to the world. David had no voice for public ears. His thoughts were relegated to the mound of sheep off the beaten path of real life and no one expected more of him.

But David sought the Lord in his isolation. He used the years of serving and protecting his ‘few sheep’ as an opportunity to know God. He did have a voice – and an audience of ONE. On the backside of a mountain David learned to pray – not in the, ‘I’m asking for things’ kind of praying but in the, ‘Lord, I want to know your more ‘ fashion. He turned his thoughts into songs (Psalms) which soothed the sheep and brought heaven to earth.

David fought off lions and bears – archenemies poised to steal, kill and destroy his flock. His sheep knew his voice and he knew their limitations.

While David was being faithful in the little – God was training his hands for war and capturing the shepherd’s heart for His own. Culture would eventually be shaped and history rearranged by the actions of this unassuming sheep herder.

I remember the Sunday service, like it was yesterday. I left church with my pile of notes – and mulled over the facts, chewing on the hard truths of God’s ways.

Little becomes much – Up is down – The backside of the mountain is in the presence of the King.

My eyes were opened to the possibilities. What if?

What if I embraced this role of mom/shepherd tending to my ‘few sheep’ with everything I had? What if I learned to know God during these busy, quiet years? What if  I was all right with being misrepresented without a voice?

Fast forward a decade, or two, and this shepherd/mom is in a whole, new place. The little lambs are strapping men and lovely ladies. Some days I long for the season when life was simple, kids were little and God was so near.

I’m  thankful for a church leader who ministered the word of God in a timely fashion – fitly spoken for my hungry heart in need of a defining moment.

Young mom – use these tender days to watch over your little ones. Learn the dynamics of spiritual warfare by protecting them and get to know your God while in the quiet place on the backside of the world.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Keeping Sabbath Rest in our Daily Lives

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For a long time in my life, I neglected things that made me happy. Not by choice, but by neglect. My life was all about denying myself and pushing my own needs aside for others. Feeling tired and burnt-out, but still pushing on. I never stopped to think I was unhappy and unhealthy or suppressing who God made me to be. There is nothing in the world wrong with denying yourself, or even pushing your own needs aside for others; This is the life of a mother. This should be the life of a Christian. In fact, it should just be a natural way of life. It is a life that the Lord calls us to.

But the Lord did not give weeds for the work. He has given us many many pleasures along the path, and we should enjoy them for the glory of Him. When we are off-balance–not taking the time to care for ourselves, to do things for ourselves, then we will burn-out. We will die, we will shrivel into martyrdom and perhaps depression.

Think about who God made you to be. Are you starving for a break? Some people need more breaks than others. Our personalities are not all the same. But I do believe God made us ”for His own glory.”  If we, as mothers, are living a life tired, depressed, angry, burnt-out, unhappy, grouchy, guilty, ad nauseum, then are we truly glorifying Him?

It might take some time to refocus; to refocus your purpose in life and embrace joy. It truly is ok to take some time out to do things that make you happy. Stumped on what to do?

 1. Sleep. Make sleep a priority in your life. You are more productive and bring more quality to your work when you are well rested.

2. Schedule a two-minute break 2-3 times a day to spend time alone and just “be”.

3. Schedule time to exercise.

4. Do something “just for you”. This is not selfish, this is restorative. And again, ask yourself who God made you to be. Some people are fine without time alone. Some people need it more than others–(that is me!) I like to find that balance. If my life is full of “must-do’s and busyness, then I get burnt-out easily. I am sensitive that way. Making time to sit and breathe and do nothing is restorative for me.

5. Eliminate energy drainers in your life: energy-sapping relationships, unfinished projects, paperwork, clutter, negative images and information, news, depressing movies and books…

6. Dream. Take time out to dream. It’s healthy and restorative! It forces us to look inside and see what desires the Lord has put in us so we can give them to Him to do what He wills with them.

I pray that if you are struggling with burn out, that you will ultimately find rest in Him.

“God isn’t calling you to be exhausted, He’s calling you to rest.” ~Sally Clarkson

 

artist: Sybil Barham 

When Life is Too Overwhelming to Ask for Help

Pam

Thankfully there are only a few times in life when things become so overwhelming, it seems impossible to ask for help. I know I need support but crises are coming like rapid fiery darts. As my being shifts from one difficulty to another, the thought rests in the back of my head to reach out for help. Yet, dodging the darts seems to occupy every second.

I think about sending out a prayer request email but quickly decide that the circumstances of my life presently sound like a bad soap opera. Realizing it would take forever to draft the email, I resolve to “lift my eyes unto the hills….where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth”.  I mouth the prayer believing it in my head while counting on it to make it’s way down to my heart.

My conversation with my Heavenly Father goes something like this, “Lord, I believe you are sovereign. You are aware of my problems. You have even orchestrated them. …(Well, I probably wasn’t ready to admit that at first, even though I knew it to be true)…. Father, I need some help but can’t get it together enough to even ask. Lord, I think I need about five Aarons and Hurs to lift me up. Father, I don’t even know who they are right now. But I believe I need about five. Would you send them?”  Then I just proceeded to dodge the next dart. He is still patiently waiting on me to embrace the fiery darts and welcome the trial as James admonishes us to do as believers.

Remember when Moses was fighting the battle of the Amalekites (Exodus 17) and as long as Moses held up his arms, the Israelites were winning. But as soon as he dropped his arms, they began losing the battle? So Aaron and Hur each held up an arm of Moses in order for the Israelites to win. I knew I needed some women friends holding my arms up.

I could go into details about the nature of our family’s problems to try and help others know things can get really bad even when you follow Christ. But then the problem gets glorified.

Or I can expound on what God continues to do in spite of my problems. And He gets glorified rather than our problems.

My situation bottomed out on Friday. But on Saturday, at my son’s football game, an old friend approached the bleachers. She did not even have any children playing. She simply came to support a mutual friend’s child.I jumped up to say hi and give her a hug not realizing I would fall apart in her arms. She listened and encouraged me but did not stop there. The following week she showed up at the store with flowers and a card letting me know she had been praying for me. My friend Kelly, who I only see sporadically at surprise times, became an Aaron for me.

Later in the week my first night of community outreach was to begin. Because of circumstances, I was feeling quite disqualified. Yet, God placed me here as leader. I took a deep breath and glanced over the parking lot as women and children arrived. A new attendee named Kay popped out of her car. I was so excited to have her even though it was a surprise.

I could not help but laugh out loud when I actually realized she was my next answer to prayer for an Aaron or Hur. As my story unfolded for Kay, she realized it was divine intervention for her to be there. Kay is the mightiest prayer warrior I know. Because it was our first night of outreach we were able to spend the full time in prayer.

One after another, the Father brought me my five…each a tangible expression of God’s loving kindness and care for his children. They were not the usual ones I reach out to on a regular basis. I was paralyzed. But they were the ones God desired to use.

Once the five prayed me through the first week, I was able to reach out online to long distance prayer support from women who have practiced being intentional to cultivate a relationship even if long distance. We share a common love for God and a common desire to see Him high and lifted up in our homes.

Sisters, NO MATTER your walk in life, your problems or pain, we need a support system, a community of believers to walk through life with.

I believe suffering is inevitable. God uses it to conform us to the image of His son as we depend on Him. And He is so very faithful to be present in the darkest times of our lives. Do you sense Him near you, caring for you, sustaining you during your times of difficulties? Would you ask God to send you an Aaron and Hur? And, like me, even if you don’t know who they are, God does. Ask Him, look and wait for Him to send them.

The battle you are in is not yours friend. It is the Lords, the maker of Heaven and earth. May our Maker be glorified in and through each of our trials.

Arms Held Up,
Pam

***The 24 hours of the .99 on Amazon is now over, but as an almost full length book, I think you will enjoy it and be blessed at the normal price of $4.99! We were so happy that we were able to do a 24 hour deal for so many of you. Thanks for making the launch such a wonderful blessing to us, who work on the blog and books just for you! You were amazing!

tuesday

 

The Ones I Will Apologize To Most

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Well, here are two of them, anyway.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~1 John 1:9

Once upon a time, I became a mom.

They placed a beautiful, chubby, sweet baby boy in my arms and my life changed in an instant. Someone has said that having a child is like agreeing to let a bit of your heart run around outside your body, and isn’t that the truth? Being capable of such heights of intense, irrational, unquenchable love was almost shocking to me.

But there was more to it, this motherhood gig. Becoming a mom also revealed the depth of my own sinfulness.

Cries late in the night have caused me to want to roll over and pull a pillow over my head rather than answering the call. Pureed squash gleefully spread over a plastic tray and drying to a hardened, immovable mass has made me want to throw the tray out the window rather than clean it one. more. time. Angry faces and furrowed eyebrows, raised voices and the tell-tale bumps of rumbles after bedtime, arguments over chores and school work and privileges and responsibilities have drawn out everything in me I might try to stuff deep … Selfishness. Irritability. Laziness.

Gross.

I was talking with an older, wiser mama who is very precious to me the other day and she made a statement that brought me up short:

“I have had to apologize to my child more often than to anyone else on the planet. I’ve had more opportunity to be sinful around her, and I’m always finding myself needing to say ‘I’m sorry’ one more time.”

Woah. It’s an awfully true statement, and one I had to take a minute to wrap my head around. Being fairly bad at apologies, I’m not sure I can say this is true of me … and yet, it ought to be.

How are you at apologizing to your kids, mama?

Apologizing means recognizing that we blow it. That we are human. That we’re all still stuck here on earth where we need sleep and caffeine to make it through a day and where a deficit of either can bring that day to its knees. It means admitting freely to our children that we are sinners in need of a savior, and that He is constantly, graciously, lovingly crafting us into His image … perfectly and instantly from His side–painstakingly, moment by moment from our own.

Somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s a definite connection between our ability to apologize to our children and our understanding of our position before the Lord.

Have we really acknowledged our need of Him? Not just mentally assented to His claim to be God or His offering of Himself on the cross; but a full recognition of the fact that each one of us is personally responsible for having put Him there?

Do we understand that God the Father so loved us before the foundation of the world that He sent His Son to come and live a perfect life, to bleed and die for us, to rise again and overcome death and the grave and all the fear that comes with it, so that sin might be defeated in our lives and we might walk in fellowship with Him forever?

Getting a grip on that truth makes it easier for me to stand before my child and say … “Honey, I am so sorry I raised my voice at you. I’m sorry I was angry that you interrupted my phone call, and I was being selfish. Would you please forgive me? Mommy messes up sometimes and I am so glad you will still love me! Would you pray with me as I ask God to forgive me, too?” Our older kids need to hear it, too … “Can you forgive me, hun, for speaking to you that way? I shouldn’t be telling you what to do right now. I need to do a better job of respecting your wishes and your right to run your own life. Please forgive me– and pray for me, will you?”

Modeling that sort of give-and-take relationship with our children will not only give them a wonderful foundation for the reality of their own future relationships with others, but also let them know that sin doesn’t need to be hidden, mistakes don’t last forever, and bitterness is not to be harbored.

Is there anyone you might need to apologize to, today? Now’s the time. 

 

Just Hold My Hand

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I sat beside the hospital bed of a friend I loved as nearly as I love my own soul.  I watched as doctors administered medication that would take him close to the brink of death in an effort to save his life.  Helplessly I asked what I could do.  “Just hold my hand” came the reply.  Hands clasped and eyes held as silence spoke what words could not utter.  Comfort.

From the wheelchair our daughter’s hand reaches out to clasp the hand of one who walks beside her.  Another pushes the chair and does for her what she cannot do for herself.  Yet from her seated position, she reaches out to any other human being walking close enough to be touched.  Connection.

Walking side by side my husband and I join hands enjoying the evening air.  Riding in the car, often in silence, his hand reaches over and takes mine.  Standing together in a congregation, I slip my hand in his.  Companionship.

Prayers before surgery when hearts are tense, the pastor reaches for the hand of those he leads.  Families gather and wait for news or sit together in funeral parlors and often just clasp hands, even for a brief second and then released.  Sharing news with a friend that will bring uncertainty, we reach to join hands.  Compassion. [Read more...]